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Rapid ethical appraisal of stakeholder views on research prior to undertaking immunopathogenesis studies on podoconiosis in northeast Ethiopia during a period of social instability
Abstract Background Undertaking research and attaining informed consent can be challenging when there is political unrest and community mistrust. Rapid ethical appraisal (REA) is a tool that uses qualitative methods to explore sociocultural issues that may affect the ethical conduct of research. Methods We used REA in northeast Ethiopia shortly following a period of unrest, during which violence against researchers occurred, to assess stakeholder perceptions of research, researchers and the informed consent process. We held 32 in-depth interviews and 2 focus group discussions. Results Most community members had little awareness about podoconiosis or healthcare research. Convincing the community to donate blood for research is challenging due to association with HIV testing. The attack on researchers was mainly motivated by the community's mistrust of their intentions against the background of a volatile political situation. Social media contributed to the spread of misinformation. Lack of community engagement was also a key contributing factor. Conclusions Using REA, we identified potential barriers to the informed consent process, participant recruitment for data and specimen collection and the smooth conduct of research. Researchers should assess existing conditions in the study area and engage with the community to increase awareness prior to commencing their research activities.